This week past, the Republican National Committee, ably led by its chairman, Wisconsin's Reince Priebus, put into effect reforms of the presidential nominating process that greatly simplify and shorten the primary season and, when combined with the two others reforms that are coming --an early convention in June or early July, and a coherent, purpose-driven debate system and schedule--will greatly enhance the prospects for a November win by the eventual GOP nominee.
The possible GOP field* is large, and it needs information now to plan campaigns then. Geraghty the Indisensable has more commentary, and Zeke Miller has additional details, but the new calendar is likely this:
The Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 1, 2016;
The New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, February 9, 2016;
The South Carolina primary on Tuesday, February 16, 2016;
and the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, February 23.
Expect a new "Super Tuesday" on Tuesday March 1, as would-be early state players rush to attract all the money and attention left after South Carolina, but note the two week gap between South Carolina's voting and the expected new Super Tuesday. Suddenly the Palmetto State has a a lot of leverage as the winner of its 2016 brawl will have a fortnight of momentum on which to build headed into the day which is expected to be crowded with early primaries, all required by the RNC to divide their delegates proportionally.
Big states that want "winner-take-all"drama and "knock-out" potential (and dollars) should angle for Tuesday, March 15, which is the earliest such a contest can be held, and if Ohio wants clout (and maybe a leg up in the hunt of the convention) its GOP dominated legislature should move the primary to that day. I doubt Governor Kasich would object.
Whatever shakes out, the madness is out of the system, so all hail Reince. If he can pull an eight-to-ten debate schedule out of his hat --say, one the week after New Hampshire, and one the week after South Carolina, and the other six spaced from September of 2015 through January 2016 --with blackout days from Friday December 18 through the end of the year-- he may be carried around the eventual convention site of the convention hall by journalists who spent Christmas 2011 in Iowa and New Hampshire. (Cities wishing to bid for the early GOP 2016 convention must do so by the end of next month with a site selection recommendation coming from this group and a decision in August of this year.) With a rational calendar, the allure of early debates just isn't going to be there for most would-be presidents, but I don't think I'll have much trouble booking the field* when their media teams figure out that 94.5 Conservative Talk covers upstate South Carolina in a blaze of 100,000 wonder, while other affiliates like WJXY-FM 93.9/93.7 in Myrtle Beach cover the coast.
South Carolina is the real winner in all of this, but there is no big loser, which is why the Priebus-led diplomacy pays off big. It is a level playing field. It is a rational one as well, and the candidates who aspire to lead the party and eventually the nation have to nod in agreement that this makes sense.
Now if the selection committee would just hold on to the common sense theme and pick Cleveland with its new convention hall, excellent mass transit from outlying areas, and the expected trifecta of the 2o15 World Series, 2016 Super Bowl, and 2016 NBA Finals appearances of its three major professional franchises providing a tailwind to the convention that summer. (Columbus will counter, of course, that Urban nation will have triumphed in early 2016, and that is most likely right, but it is still 1 versus 3 in the momentum-generating events. And Columbus does not have a beautiful lake or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)
A very good week for the GOP indeed. If there had been such a meeting in January 2010, President Romney might well be clamping down sanctions harder on Iran and markets steadier under a budget accord negotiated by Vice President Ryan.
*The GOP Field (potential candidates who have declared, hinted, or been tipped as candidates, or for whom there is not insignificant acclaim from fervent supporters outside of their families and state): Amb. John Bolton, Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. John Kasich, Rep. Peter King, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Mike Pence, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Sarah Palin, Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Rick Snyder, Sen. John Thune, Gov. Scott Walker.